Friday, August 05, 2005

My Narrator

A number of childhood conditions lead to my being bookish: lack of cable, a TRS 80 with only two games, intense loneliness, little-to-no upper body strength, tendency to burn rather than tan, etc.

So I read. A lot.

But reading can't fill an empty life. It only highlights what is missing. When I read, I read about noble people doing brave things or crazy people doing ill-advised things--never about lonely people doing boring things. They just don’t write books about people like me.

What could I do? I couldn't set out on a whaling ship from New Bedford--my mother didn’t like me to cross the street by myself. There aren't any moors in Kentucky for me to rage about on--and even if there were, my mother didn’t like for me to be out in thunderstorms (or near telephones, bathtubs, televisions, windows, toaster ovens or door knobs). Doomed romance with the girl of my dreams? No, I don’t think so.

It wasn't until after I graduated from college and found a job that I had the money to do improve my situation.

I hired a Narrator: someone that could give voice to the philosophical depth and moral gravity of my life--without me having to do too much philosophical or moral to achieve it.

It was the worst decision I have ever made.

The first problem: when I was shopping around for a Narrator, none of the salesmen mentioned that every model of narrator built since the early 19th C. is unreliable.


Me: Where the hell have you been?

Narrator: He closed his eyes and shook his head slowly, legs tired from standing outside of the grocery store with torn paper bags of discount black beans; the store-brand ice-cream melting; a look of anxiety, frustration and self-pity spreading across his face like oil on water.

Me: Just pop the trunk already.

Narrator: He had been crying.

Me: I haven’t been crying.

Narrator: Womanly sobs.

Me: Open the trunk!


Not only that, but apparently Narrators are also irresponsible.


Me: [Opening mail] What’s this? An overdraft notice? Look at all these bounced checks. Have you not been writing things down?

Narrator: It was then--with the amber sun slanting in through the half-opened drapes, the air heavy like the arm of a sleeper--that he realized that he was going to have to get a second job.

Me: Second job, my ass. How about you get a "first job."

Narrator: As the dust from the filthy house settled softly across his brow he wondered--my day doesn't just narrate itself?


And rude.


Me: Could you please take your feet down off of the coffee table?

Narrator: He said, fussily.


No-one tells you that getting a Narrator is like getting a tattoo: it is with you for the rest of your life, and what may seem cool when you are twenty-two, might not still appeal years later. Me? I chose the Southern Lit model (N1928-sf).


Narrator: A post. A post. A post. A tree. Birds in flight, across the sky. The sky itself a pool. A post. A post. Yellow, fast, the cars. Whirring on up ahead. Whirring and spitting, all in a place, spinning and churning like the homunculean sepulcher of--

Me: Christ Almighty. Can we not have one drive to the mall in silence? Please?


Of course now I wish I at least had gone with the Lepidopterist 1897 (N1950-pf). I could have had someone to play chess with.

At least I wasn’t into Beat Poets (N1956-nl).


My Friend Jim: [Shoveling dirt into a hole. Indecipherable mumbles escaping.] What are you talking about? Please shut-up! Please! [Breaks down in tears. The sound of jazz escape from the dirt]


Or Tristam Shandy.


My Friend Jim: Beautiful day, isn't it?

Narrator: What a loser.

My Friend Jim: What did you say?

Narrator: &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&


Rather than make my life seem more grand and sweeping--highlighting pain and ecstasy and giving direction to my somewhat aimless emotions--the Narrator only emphasized the most mundane corners of existence.


Narrator: The toilet bowl--its acrid stench and fecund circumambience--roared forth with spastic fury as it battled like soldier, wounded, bloodied, but proud, and shoved back forth into this world from the next about five gallons of cold, cold water. Water that is probably going to seep downstairs if someone doesn’t stand up like a man, stop whimpering and get a bucket and mop


And is always with you.


Potential Employer: Thanks for coming in. I had a chance to look at your resume this morning. It is very impressive.

Me: Thank you.

Narrator: But his heart sank, knowing that the words on that piece of 50% cotton bond paper--stolen from his current employer--were mere puffing at best and in many places pure fantasia and misdirection.

Potential Employer: [standing] Well, thank you.




Date: Oh wow.

Me: Yeah, I made dinner. I wanted this date to be special.

Narrator: He eyed her bared stomach hungrily, knowing that once he had bedded her, he would never call. Plus she didn’t know his real name anyway so there was no chance that she could ever track him down.

Me: Wait. I'm not like that.

Narrator: As she grabbed her coat from the bedroom--the dingy, spent bedroom--perhaps she would stop to get the phone number on the way out of an intelligent, employed man with a splendid vocabulary and great upper body strength.


Yes, my Narrator is the worst decision of my life. Worse than thinking it would impress a girl to eat cat food at a party. Worse than telling the French Exchange Student that I would meet her at a movie and then not going because I was scared. Worse than running a stop sign in front of Denny’s at 3 am in a car that wasn’t mine, without a license, with two drunken underage girls in the backseat.

I’ve tried firing my Narrator.


Me: This isn’t working. You have to leave.

Narrator: He said fruitlessly.


I’ve tried leaving my Narrator in the woods.


Me: I’m going to pull over here near this deserted church out here in the middle of the woods. Why don’t you stretch your legs a little?

Narrator: Perhaps he was a fool. Perhaps he was lying to himself. But he had yet to realize that he would never get what he wants. And if anyone was going to get his ass left in the woods, it would only be himself.


I even thought the unthinkable.


Me: [Holding the cup out nervously.] Would you like some tea?

Narrator: He said, trying to conceal the vulgar and murderous looking his eye. He then knew he had best watch his back that night. And every night after that.


Nothing worked. So I am just going to have to live with my stupid ass choice. I give up.

Narrator: I'm re-wrote the lyrics for the new LP. That's cool right?

Me: Yeah, go ahead.

Narrator: Great. I figure since I'm going to sing them, and solo over them and have some ladies over during the sessions--you know. I don't want to embarrass myself.


wordnerdy said...

man, i'm glad you wrote this! it's a great advisory tale--now i know not to succumb to the temptation of having a narrator (my mother was pressuring me to go for the chick lit model, but of course i was leaning toward an annie dillard-style naturalist).


RIKK said...

Mine used the higly unpopular second person like in "Bright Lights, Bright City."

Me: I think I'll get an egg n' cheese biscuit.

Narrator: You do another line of cocaine.

Me: What?

I was able to trade him out for a non-Western, post-colonial narrator who pleasantly mumbles gobbly gook as far as I can tell.

Anonymous said...

There's a movie filming now that this reminds me of, although only he can hear his narrator:

In "Stranger Than Fiction," Ferrell plays Harold Crick, an IRS agent whose life begins to be chronicled by a narrator (Emma Thompson) only he can hear. Fiction and reality collide when the bewildered and resistant Harold hears the narrator say that events have been set in motion that will lead to his immiment death.